Han Vance on Georgia football: Dawgs to CFP. Three of the Top 10 lost one week, then four of the Top 10 lost the next week. It’s a longer season than it used to be, and the scenario at Georgia is in no way unique. Georgia was never going undefeated in 2018 and made the 2017 season CFP with a similar loss.
Only Bama, Ohio State, Clemson were ahead of the Bulldogs at #4 in one iteration of the FPI (Football Power Index) I saw since the defeat, though I saw them at 5th and 7th as well, striking distance. The FPI runs 10,000 simulations of future games on the schedule, and updates daily based on the outcomes. Unlike the polls, it is the type of projection method that actually may be evaluated by the college football playoff committee, during the season. Football Power Index is generally a much truer indicator of future success probability than a program’s current ranking, where UGA happens to be ranked #8 and #6. The poll hits are biggest right after a bad loss, the boost-in-bounce-back soon experienced in both of the polls if the losing team then starts winning again.
Case in point is (#5 in the rankings) LSU, having a great year in Baton Rogue, the Tigers were beaten up at the Swamp, in an upset by the home team in many ways similar to the Dawgs upset loss on the road to them. They are in complete control of their destiny and host (#1) Alabama, ranked well ahead of Florida – the Florida who control their own destiny, whipped them physically, have the same record, one week later. Bama can essentially eliminate LSU from the CFP with a second loss, while LSU can only get Bama out of the league championship. We don’t want Bama. They’d still make the CFP, anyway, for those seeking rematch wins over championships themselves. All Georgia fans should prefer getting the Bayou Bengals in that game in Atlanta. Nobody fearing them that much away from Death Valley, they showed serious home field advantage might Saturday and have a real shot in their Bama game, just a week after showing they could get beat by the SEC East. Georgia’s easiest path to the CFP is through LSU.
By now, all college football playoff committee members have already understood Georgia, with an unusually weak out of conference schedule, and now a loss, to have to repeat as SEC champions in order to reach the CFP. I didn’t see much other viable path before the loss.
The committee, as I’ll herein refer to them, are a selected panel, a cast of characters, individuals with urges and oft-wrong opinions and biases, that suss it out in a room, while quaffing snacks aplenty. The AP Poll and the Coaches Poll have been made irrelevant by the invention of the committee. While the polls matter to fans after the season, and are a public gauge of program strength before the committee’s rankings come out each year, the committee is instructed not to in any way consider the polls. They ARE the polls, now, only bigger and much more important, their “poll” is what will matter moving forward and decide a championship, played over two rounds.
The AP and Coaches will go right on ranking, all the way past the season, when the committee has ceased to meet and sits congratulatory. Those poll rankings won’t matter, at all. Starting Tuesday, October 30th, through a final pairing of two pairs of teams, 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3. The committee will reveal rankings every Tuesday. The #1 team will get the preferred geographically-nearest bowl, of the two sites in rotation to host the CFP first round that year, the #2 team relegated to hosting the other bowl. A la #3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl, visiting at #2 Oklahoma, last year. #1 Clemson hosted #4 Bama in NOLA.
Notre Dame, who have cleared the tough games on their schedule unscathed, Clemson, who routinely win the (down) ACC and may go undefeated, a pass happy Ohio State who still face Michigan, and a pass happy Alabama are all on the immediate path to the playoff. With LSU, Oklahoma, Michigan and Texas lurking on the other side. The Longhorns having lost their opener to Maryland and each with a defeat. A one-loss winner of the SEC should get in the CFP. Only Bama, not just of the league but of these teams, has an established path to the playoff without winning a conference, based on their recent history of getting in as an at-large and winning it all. They’ve won two modern national titles without winning the SEC West, even getting in back when there were just two teams in one game.
The independent Irish are another exception, always media darlings, they carry a lot of (undeserved) clout with their name. If undefeated ND is in, that leaves only three slots for the ACC, the SEC, the Big 10, with the Big 12 and Pac-12 already less likely to field a CFP team this year. I honestly can’t foresee a one-loss SEC champ not making it, so no major worries there.
Georgia would already be as high as #5 when the rankings come out, but don’t worry if they are a few spots lower, two days after beating Florida for first in the SEC East, tied with a Kentucky the Dogs are set to visit, with a conference championship in the path-line for the team. Beat Florida, win out, take out LSU (or Bama) in Atlanta, get in as at least #4.